“Folkstar is like Emily Saliers meets Joan Jett.”

Folkstar, a musical collaboration between Kim Dicso and Sue Cag, is a rich brew of diverse influences. Dicso’s acoustic folk groove and elegant lyricism contrast perfectly with the raw fire of Cag’s bluesy guitar. The result approaches magic, crafting thought provoking lyrics over a sea of deep and raw emotion.

Folkstar derives power in part from fearless ambition. Their sophomore release, Loud and Clear, is notable for both their distinct sound and the breadth of its lyrical matter. Weighing in at 16 tracks, the album covers a lot of bold and often personal ground. The title track deals with Cag’s hearing loss and the resulting emotional and physical fallout, with her distorted guitar mirroring her audial experience. “Final Curtain” and “New Eyes” offer meditations on death and loss, albeit from different viewpoints. Dicso and Cag plunge headlong into LGBT issues in “It Gets Better”, a song about teen bullying and suicide dedicated to the It Gets Better Project. “Fabrication” and “Everybody Knows” address other universal social concerns, focusing Folkstar’s insightful lyrics into an exploration of the manufactured nature of contemporary life and the impact it has on those who dare to dream.

As vegans and animal rights activists, the duo addresses these sensitive issues face-on. “Human” stares directly into the abyss of animal exploitation, while the jazz-inflected track “Abolitionists” presents another kind of commentary on the same subject. Cag also gave a non-lyrical voice to her feelings in a recent interview: “What’s happening is the biggest holocaust we’ve ever known. Over 150 billion are tortured and killed every year. It’s mind-boggling. We feel as though we can do whatever we want when it comes to other species, despite it being clear that they feel joy, pain, and the will to live. We’ll make up any excuse to convince ourselves to continue this way.”

The whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts. Loud and Clear is an album of dreams and ambition, loss and rebirth, and above all self-realization. The highly personal nature of the songs captured therein speaks to the souls of a pair of musicians coming into their own. With this impressive achievement behind them, Folkstar can look forward to greater things to come.

Folkstar regularly performs in the Raleigh/Durham area, as well as in their hometown. They just finished an east coast tour in support of their sophomore album Loud and Clear, which was released in August, 2013. They are currently booking a west coast tour for the fall. [+]